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With nearly 100,000 behind on rent, Harrell makes Valentine’s Day extension of Seattle’s ban on pandemic evictions

Mayor Bruce Harrell will extend Seattle’s eviction protections another 30 days into February but the new administration says it wants to do more to inform people about the rules and measure its impact on leases and real estate in the city.

The latest extension protecting residential tenants, businesses, and organizations from eviction during the pandemic will keep the restrictions in place through February 14th.

Saying his administration wants to better understand “the algebra behind it,” Harrell said the next executive order includes the creation of “an advisory group for the mayor composed of tenant advocates and small landlords,” and an evaluation of “Seattle’s intergovernmental coordination in receiving and distributing financial assistance to tenants and small landlords.” Harrell also promised a new online “portal” to provide information to tenants and property owners.

“I am refusing to simply extend the moratorium and sit idly by as if our work is done – the City must go further to pursue the most effective methods of support for tenants and small landlords,” Harrell said in the press release on the new order.

Seattle’s eviction limits were first put in place as the pandemic took shape in March of 2020 and were repeatedly extended by Mayor Jenny Durkan.

In his order, Harrell also calls for Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities to continue flexible payment plans and halt utility shut-offs through April 15.

Seattle’s latest extension comes under a surge in cases as the omicron variant’s spread has snarled staffing and filled hospitals and follows some $46 billion in federal emergency rental assistance trickling into state and local programs to help renters behind on payments. In Seattle, the estimate in mid 2021 was 60,000 currently behind on rent. More recent estimates put that number at 96,000.

Emerging from the evictions restrictions could be tumultuous. In Seattle, new laws have been put in place to help protect tenants once the eviction restrictions are lifted including ordinances requiring payment plan options for late rent during or within six months after the city’s COVID-19 state of emergency ends, a “financial hardship” defense for eviction court proceedings, a ban on eviction during winter months, and a ban on evictions during the school year for families and teachers. Some local efforts, meanwhile, are channeling relief funding direct to landlords.

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant was among many calling on the new administration to extend the eviction ban, saying lifting the restrictions “would dramatically worsen the lives of our city’s renters.”

In a letter to Harrell demanding the moratorium’s extension, Sawant called on the restrictions to remain in place “through to the end of the COVID public health emergency.”

As long as there is an emergency, renters must be part of the emergency protections,” Sawant wrote.

In December, 96,000 Seattle-area renters said they were behind on rent, according to a Census Bureau survey.


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